An administrative law judge is reviewing the case of a Portland psychologist whose license was suspended after her 12-year-old client attempted suicide following unorthodox treatment that included drinking milk from a baby bottle while sitting in his father's lap.
The four-day hearing for Debra "Kali" Miller, which ends Thursday, is closed to the public. Miller has been unable to practice since March, when the Oregon Board of Psychologist Examiners suspended her license. She has appealed the board's decision.
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Miller did not immediately return a call for comment.
According to the board, Miller inaccurately diagnosed the boy with a rare condition known as Reactive Attachment Disorder by using invalid, unreliable assessment measures. She also failed to diagnose depression and recommended potentially harmful therapy to the boy that might have contributed to his suicide attempt, the board said.
Besides the bottle feeding, Miller directed the child to remain confined in his bedroom for extended periods with his door set up with an alarm. She also advised him to urinate into a jar in his room; sit facing the wall for "time out"; address his stepmother using "Queen" before her first name; and do physical exercises such as jumping jacks and crawling on the floor.
Miller told the parents to separate the child from his siblings, and referred the child to an unlicensed practitioner, the board said.
Last September, the boy was taken to a hospital emergency room following a suicide attempt by strangulation. He had been in therapy with Miller for more than a year.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and other professional organizations have published warnings regarding the dangers of physically coercive treatment techniques for Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. Such techniques, according to the groups, are scientifically unproven and may damage the child physically and emotionally.
Miller told the board most of the children she treated were children with RAD and that she had a yearlong waiting list.
This isn't the first time Miller has come to the board's attention.
In 2004, the panel issued an order reprimanding Miller and fining her $1,000 for continuing to provide psychotherapy to two children after their recently divorced father demanded she stop. The Oregon Court of Appeals then reversed the board's decision.
And in 2012, Miller entered into a corrective action agreement with the board after it found that she relied on unreliable sources in assessing whether a child suffered sexual abuse.
After the current hearing finishes, the administrative law judge will take up to several weeks to write an opinion regarding the case.